Good for: great bargains, funny chat up lines
Not good for: your wallet
Lonely Planet review for Grand Bazaar
This labyrinthine and chaotic bazaar is the heart of the Old City and has been so for centuries. No visit to İstanbul would be complete without a stop here.
Starting as a small masonry bedesten (covered market) built during the time of Mehmet the Conqueror, the bazaar grew to cover a vast area as neighbouring shopkeepers put up roofs and porches (so that commerce could be conducted comfortably in all weather). Finally, a system of locked gates and doors was provided so that the entire minicity could be closed up tight at the end of the business day. Today, the bazaar has 16 hans (caravanserais), 64 lanes, mosques, banks, a police station, restaurants, workshops and more than 2000 shops, making it a world within itself.
When here, make sure to peep through doorways to find hidden hans and to take every side street to dig out tiny boutiques and workshops. Visit shops, drink too much çay, compare price after price and try your hand at the art of bargaining. Allow at least three hours for your visit; some travellers spend three days.